At the annual National Association of Realtors convention at the end of 2010, the NAR members voted in an amendment to Article 10 of the Code of Ethics to include sexual orientation as a protected class alongside race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and handicap. We applauded NAR for implementing the change prior to HUD changing the law.
Since the change in Article 10, we’ve had a number of conversations offline with individuals involved in the passage of the change and consumers impacted by the change.
We learned from Professional Standards Committee member Sheila Bell that the concept of protecting this class was introduced by the Minneapolis Association of Realtors at the Equal Opportunity/Cultural Diversity Committee at the May Mid-Year meetings. Bell said, “From that committee, it was referred to the Professional Standards Committee; the committee that oversees the Code of Ethics. In both committees, the vote was unanimous! As a Realtor of nearly 25 years, this is the proudest I’ve ever been to belong to the National Association of Realtors.”
When asked about the downside, Bell insisted that there is no downside. “This is a momentous move forward for the Realtor family. We have set the pace for the Country rather than following and it ensures that attention will be paid to those folks who may have suffered.”
When asked about the 7% of members that voted against the change in the CoE, Bill Lublin, member of various NAR committees since 1999 noted, “I can’t tell you what the reasoning might have been for voting against this since I was an advocate for the change. It may be because this is the first time that the Code of Ethics has led the law rather than followed existing laws.”
So where’s the part about how the LGBT community can suffer?
First of all, you should know that we (Benn Rosales, AG founder and I) live in Austin which is extremely LGBT friendly and we’ve personally advocated for the community locally, so we are glad that NAR members voted sexual orientation as a protected class, it should have been protected all along, but it’s better late than never.
But we’ve been talking to a lot of our friends locally and I wonder if the Article 10 update changes how LGBT-niched agents market or interact? When someone gets in your car and says, “don’t take me to a black neighborhood,” that’s the nice way of saying “I want to live in a white neighborhood.” You’re taught in real estate school that not only for E&O reasons but ethical reasons, you should sever your relationship with that individual as they are asking you to violate the CoE and discriminate. So what now when someone gets in your car and says “don’t put me in a queer neighborhood?” If it wasn’t already your inclination to kick them to the curb, now the CoE says your participation in doing so would be discriminatory. Fantastic, that’s how it should be. But what about when someone gets in your car and says “I grew up in a really anti-gay community where I was bullied and physically assaulted, please help me find somewhere that I will be safe that is gay friendly.” What then? Your inclination is that they’re a protected class, you must protect, but when a class is protected under HUD Fair Housing Laws or the NAR CoE, you cannot discriminate. So now must you sever ties with them the same as when someone says “don’t put me in a white neighborhood?”
Should agents that cater to the LGBT community remove any LGBT reference from their marketing for implication that they will not serve straight clients (also a protected class now)? Should Realtors who have websites devoted to LGBT friendly communities have to take those sites down because the implication is that they will not serve non-LGBT clients?
We wonder what the full scope of Article 10 means for the real estate community? On one hand we most sincerely applaud the passage of the amendment, we are unclear as to how marketing to the LGBT community or getting those intimate questions in the car are changed. Tell us in comments what you think the shift looks like and if there is a shift at all?
Courtesy of NAR, here are the Article 10 notes from May if you’re interested: